Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 09:05 GMT

El Salvador: Centro de Entrenamiento Militar de la Fuerza Armada (CEMFA), Military Training Center of the Armed Forces

Publisher United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Author Resource Information Center
Publication Date 28 June 2000
Citation / Document Symbol SLV00004.ZAR
Cite as United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, El Salvador: Centro de Entrenamiento Militar de la Fuerza Armada (CEMFA), Military Training Center of the Armed Forces, 28 June 2000, SLV00004.ZAR, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


What is known about the Centro de Entrenamiento Militar de la Fuerza Armada (CEMFA), Military Training Center of the Armed Forces, and is it possible that suspected FMLN sympathizers captured by soldiers from CEMFA would have been released to the FMLN guerrillas if in fact they were found to be FMLN supporters?


The Centro de Entrenamiento Militar de la Fuerza Armada (CEMFA), Military Training Center of the Armed Forces, was opened in January 1984 near the city of La Unión, the capital of La Unión, the easternmost department of El Salvador (Associated Press 11 Oct. 1985). According to Jane's International Defense Review, the exact location of the CEMFA was a place called Punta Ruca (Jane's Information Group Limited 1 Sep. 1991).

The facility, built under the supervision of U.S. military advisors, became the Salvadoran military's principal basic-training base after the Honduran government halted the training of Salvadorans at the Regional Military Training Center in Honduras (Facts on File 18 Oct. 1985; Latin American Newsletters, 25 Oct. 1985). The center, with barracks capable of housing up to 2,000 military trainees and one hundred instructors, remained operational throughout the war and also was the base for a 250-member security battalion (Associated Press 11 Oct. 1985; Jane's Information Group Limited 1 Sep. 1991; Facts on File 18 Oct. 1985).

An estimated 350 FMLN guerrillas attacked the CEMFA on 10 October 1985, one of the largest FMLN assaults of that year which left 40 Salvadoran soldiers dead, according to Salvadoran officials (Washington Post 12 Oct. 1985; Associated Press, 11 Oct. 1985). The FMLN stated that a principal aim was to capture or kill U.S. personnel, but Salvadoran officials, while noting that there might have been up to 12 U.S. military trainers at the base during the attack, said that they had not taken part in the fighting. The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador put the number of U.S. trainers at five (Associated Press 11 Oct. 1985; Facts on File 18 Oct. 1985).

The commander of CEMFA at the time of the October 1985 attack was Lt. Col. Joaquin Cerna Flores (Associated Press 11 Oct. 1985; Facts on File, 18 Oct. 1985). According to the El Rescate database, the commander of the CEMFA from August 1986 until December 1989 was Carlos Alfredo Rivas Najarro. He is probably the same Col. Carlos Alfredo Rivas who was known as a hard-line officer and confidante of Maj. Roberto D'Aubuisson, the late leader of the conservative ARENA party and founder of a number of right-wing death squads (Doggett 1993, 210).

Regarding the question of the fate of suspected FMLN supporters captured by soldiers stationed at the CEMFA, it should be noted that the El Rescate database on human rights violations during the El Salvadoran conflict lists only five rights violation attributed to units of the CEMFA, three captures recorded during the period 1985-1986 and two extrajudicial killings during the period 1986-1987. Although the El Rescate database is not comprehensive, the generally low number would be in line with CEMFA being principally a basic training facility.

Nonetheless, the security battalion stationed at CEMFA would likely have sent out patrols or other missions in search of FMLN guerrillas or supporters, more so after the surprise guerrilla attack in October 1985. As noted above, three captures by CEMFA were cited in the El Rescate database from late 1985 through early 1986. Of these, El Rescate reported that one captive was extrajudicially executed by CEMFA. Amnesty International reported that, in general, anyone captured by the military or security forces remained at great risk of being abused and tortured during interrogation and, in some cases killed, even in the late 1980s when rights violations, especially killings, by the military and security forces diminished significantly (Amnesty International, 1989; Amnesty International, 1990).

The RIC was unable to find documentation that specifically addressed the possible release of captured FMLN sympathizers or supporters to the guerrillas.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Amnesty International. Amnesty International Report 1989. "El Salvador" (London: AI, 1989).

Amnesty International. Amnesty International Report 1990. "El Salvador" (London: AI, 1981).

Associated Press. Frazier, Joseph B. "Dozens of Soldiers Die As Rebels Attack Military Training Center" (La Unión, El Salvador: 11 October 1985).

Doggett, Martha. Death Foretold: The Jesuit Murders in El Salvador (Washington D.C.: Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and Georgetown University Press, 1993).

Facts on File. World News; El Salvador. "Rebels Raid Army Base, Kill 40 Soldiers" (18 October 1985), p. 784 E1.

Latin American Newsletters. Latin America Regional Reports: Mexico and Central America. "El Salvador/Casualties" (25 October 1985), p. 8.

Jane's Information Group Limited. International Defense Review. "Zonal Defense" (1 September 1991), Vol. 24, No. 9, p. 916.

Washington Post. Cody, Edward. "Salvadoran Rebels Target U.S. Advisers" (San Salvador: 11 October 1985).

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